Lifelong boundary crosser: Claudia Thomas

This profile is among 61 originally created for the Indispensable Role of Blacks at Johns Hopkins exhibit, which is presented jointly by the Johns Hopkins University Black Faculty and Staff Association, the Office of the President, and Development and Alumni Relations. In celebration of Black History Month, the Hub will publish select profiles from the exhibit throughout February.

Claudia Thomas

Image caption: Claudia Thomas

In her autobiography, God Spare Life, Claudia Thomas describes three major storms in her life: the turbulence of being a college student during the 1960s, the intense fear of being in the path of a Category 5 hurricane, and the emotional journey of surviving kidney disease following a transplant from her sister.

The faith and strength that enabled Thomas to weather those storms also yielded great accomplishments. While an undergraduate at Vassar College, a 1969 sit-in she led served as a catalyst for the college to establish its Africana Studies department. After graduating from the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in 1975, Thomas became the first female to graduate from the Yale-New Haven Hospital Orthopaedic Residency Program and the first black female orthopedic surgeon in the United States.

Thomas now maintains a private practice in Central Florida. In 2008, in honor of her work to encourage and support minorities and women entering the field of orthopedics, Thomas received the annual Diversity Award from the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.